Thursday, March 4, 2010

Philosophy, Geology, Guilt, and Being Sick

When I get sick, I think a lot.

This is because usually my eyes hurt, so I don't read; my head hurts, so I don't watch television; I don't go online because I don't have fast internet--I haven't until just now; and I am stupid, so I don't knit. Usually I sleep, drool a little (Nyquil), and use lots and lots of Kleenex. Sometimes I eat all of a certain type of food. Today, I drank all of our Sweet Tea.

When I think, it is about things I can't do anything about. Like what happened to Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells were taken without her informed consent, used in laboratories, bought, sold, and marketed without her family's knowledge, all after her death. Her cells have been alive outside her body for longer than they were alive inside her body. More of her cells exist now than ever existed when she was alive. And all of this happened because when a doctor took a biopsy, it didn't die in the lab. That had never occurred before. Up to that point, no human cell had ever been able to be grown in a laboratory. Due to those cells, we are able to research and treat disease in a way no one was ever able to do before. You can read all about this in an amazing new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. The linkie is to Amazon, but I encourage you to go to your local Indie bookseller or--better yet--your local library.

Reading this book has made me think a lot about science and how quickly it progresses. Watching Fringe does not help this. It is, however, an awesome show. Watch it.

I think, and tons of people agree with me, that scientific discovery moves way faster than it can ever be regulated. It always has. That's why what happened to Henrietta Lacks could and did happen. It's also why Fistula Man (whose name I can never remember) was pursued over land and sea by the doctor who discovered him, for so long that eventually he just gave up and let the doctor study him until his eventual death.

We can't legislate against certain types of research fast enough to make that research stop or prevent it from taking place.

That being said, I have several responses from reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and here they are:

1. When talking about HeLa cells, we aren't talking about Henrietta Lacks. We are talking about the thing that killed her.

2. If we talk about how wrong the doctors were in their behavior toward Mrs. Lacks, it is through the lens of modern science, medicine, and civil rights. What they did was wrong, but we realize that more so today than the doctors then would have been aware of then. That doesn't make it right. It just means we can't judge them as harshly as we want to.

3. If the researchers had just followed our current protocol: naming a sample Sample X and not after the source of said sample, this book never would have been written. To put it another way: we need to support our constitutional right to privacy, which is kind of assumed and so can go away if we don't argue about it loudly.

On to geology. Did you know that our planet shifted when the earthquake in Chile happened? It moved. Also, they just had an earthquake in Kentuky. So when someone tells you everything is connected, don't assume that they're on drugs. It's true.

When I lie in bed staring at the wall or the ceiling, I think a lot about the people who are dealing with me not doing certain things. Like I feel bad that I'm not at work, making dinner, driving friends to various places. I also think about the things I want to be doing that I can't do because I can't walk without using my asthma meds.

And I think about knitting and my friends, because being sick makes me want to do things that make me happy, like knitting and spending time with friends, preferably both at the smae time.

When I think about knitting and friends, I invariably think of my friend Rachael. And then I look at my stash and start to wonder why it is that the two of us are knitting so many of the same things lately. And because I have time, I have compiled another list, since I am sick and have nothing better to do. This list is of the reasons why I think I'm knitting so many of the same things as Rachael of late, assuming, of course, that the knitting of same things is actually my fault. Which, you know, it is.

1. Rachael is an amazing knitter. I bet she didn't just spend hours of her evening taking scissors to the second finished sweater of the year she's mucked up beyond belief (hint: when a pattern tells you bamboo will make the sweater you're knitting grow lots, it means that you ought to swatch/steam that yarn to see just how much, so you don't end up with a cape instead of a cardigan, resulting in you using a pair of scissors to remove over four inches of ribbing it took you days to knit). When Rachael knits something, it is pretty. Also, it is wearable. This might be because she can do math. So when she brings something to show it off at knit night, it makes me want to knit something that pretty, it inspires me to go out and make the Pretty Thing.

2. We love many of the same designers. Okay, almost all of the same designers. Except Rachael can remember their names. I can...sometimes.

3. We are the same age, similar body types, have similar skin tones, live in the same part of the same state, shop in the same stores, and use the same websites and magazines to find patterns. Therefore, we pick a lot of the same things to knit because those things are the prettiest for 20-something girls to wear.

4. If we like the same TV shows and books, doesn't it follow that we would like other similar things? I mean, I was in shock to find that, when I first started talking books with Rachael back in college, she had not only heard of my favorite fantasy novels, she had read them.

5. Maybe this should have been one. We have good taste. Both of us.

All the same, I think we should make some rules about the Geodesic cardigan, just so we don't scare Muggles. Like, maybe we should wear them on even or odd days...or with radically different shirts underneath them. I am open to suggestion. Or--hey--I could dye my hair another color or cut most of it off. Then we would look way more different than we do now when we sit next to each other in a badly-lit coffee shop, knitting in unison.

Or--and here's a better idea--we should make a creepy YouTube video involving us knitting the same sweater side-by-side. Maybe Joel will shoot it for us. He has a camera, right?

And now you see what various drugs and sedatives do to Laura's brain. That is why you should never mix Nyquil with other medicines, like benadryl, which I so totally bought and used despite my mother's forcing me to promise never to take it again because she thinks it might lead to me flinging myself of the roof like that famous guy's daughter in the '60's who took too much LSD.

Our house is one story, I bet I'd live.


  1. Well, I'm not going to argue with any of those points, I just wanted to point out that it's been done yet again. I looked at the pictures of your Featherweight, and saw how nice it looked with brown, and thought how nice mine, pink and brown, would look with brown. And then, because I don't really own a lot of brown, I went and bought a brown shirt.

  2. We are funny, funny people. Let's check our outfits with each other before we get dressed for Detroit, we don't want to look silly...Or do we?

  3. Well, I'll be wearing Olive, so unless you knit something like 200 stitches per minute for the next week, I think we'll be safe. ;-)

  4. My Olive is sitting pretty--I left the pattern at Jen's apartment over the weekend. So I've been literally hacking away at my Jen Cardigan...